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Tag Archives: photographer habits
Check out the photography of my 52 Photo Walk Group!
One of my goals as a photography educator is to give my photography students opportunities to practice the photography skills they learn in my workshops. The photographer tours that I present are all built around the bringing photographers to unique locations to practice different types of photography.The 52 Week Photo Walk group I have organized on Flickr is another methods I have provided to get folks out with their cameras.
We have a group of 95 photographers participating in the Photo Walk program! This group has worked hard all year and much of their beautiful image making is found on our group page.
Becoming a good photographer requires regular practice. The more you work at learning your tools, practicing your camera work the better your photography will become. Make sure you take some time to look at the photography produced by this wonderful group of photographers I hope you admire their efforts and appreciate the work they are putting into their photographic craft.
Want to learn more about becoming a better digital photographer?
Make sure you sign-up for my email list (see right sidebar for form) so you can receive notices about my photography education program and photo tips. I present photo workshops in my studio and at locations throughout New England and beyond. In 2013 I will be introducing more interactive online learning programs that you will not want to miss.
Buying a digital camera is the first step to becoming a better photographer
A common photo-rookie error is to think that once you have purchased that brand new digital camera you are going to start taking great photos. Following that same logic, many people think, the more money they spend on a camera the better their photos will be.
I got some bad news (and some good news.) Good photography is made by good photographers. No amount of deluxe camera equipment will matter if you do not have skills. Now the good news photography is a set of skills that are learnable and need to be practiced.
My mantra, that is often repeated in my photography workshops is “It is not the camera, It’s the photographer”.
Purchasing a camera is the beginning of the process, not the end for being able to create good photos. Our digital cameras are remarkable tools for personal and creative expression but they require some effort to master and use well. Invest the time and effort into learning how to make quality photos and you will be richly rewarded.
Creative photography is best produced in deliberate manner. Carefully observing your environment, finding visual opportunities is the name of the game. Knowing your camera and the tools it has for image making, is how you translate those observations. Photography, the craft of image making, requires practice and experience to master. No musician made it to Carnegie hall without practice and no photographer produced great images without the same commitment.
My point is not to discourage the new digital photographer. Rather, I want them to embrace the challenge and build their creative abilities.unities is the name of the game. Knowing your camera and the tools it has for image making, is how you translate those observations. Photography, the craft of image making, requires practice and experience to master. No musician made it to Carnegie hall without practice and no photographer produced great images without the same commitment.
The fact that photography provides an infinite learning opportunity is one of the reasons I most attracted to this profession. I vividly recall my first experience of watching a print develop before my eyes in a darkroom tray. At that moment (in 1972!) it occurred to me I would never be bored with photography, that if I did it every day for 100 years I will still have plenty to learn and practice. For me that insight was not daunting, it was inspirational.!
Thirty five years later I still work at my craft and practice new skills. That commitment to quality image making has been richly rewarded and I still have another 65 years to go before I discover if assumption was correct!
If you want to learn from my experience and get some guidance on becoming a better digital photographer attend one of my photography workshops or photo tours. Sign-up to receive my email notices about the workshops (see form on right sidebar) or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A point that I make in all of my photo workshops is about the most important photo accessory that every photographer must use. What is the “most important” photo accessory? you ask. Your feet. If you want to improve the look of your image; move!
Changing your camera position, your point of view, is the best way to improve how your photography looks. Compose your image carefully and fill your frame. Only include the essential visual elements in your frame. Determine your camera position relative to the direction of the light falling on your subject. Select a focal length the create the arrangement of distance you want to appear in your photo and then move your feet. Don’t believe me ? Here is what the iconic photojournalist had to say about the subject.
I offer a program of photography workshops and photographer tours at my studio in Nashua, NH and in locations throughout the Northeast. For more information contact me at email@example.com .
My next photographer workshop is October 13-14 in Lincoln, NH. For information about the third annual WHITE MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHER WEEKEND go to the workshop website.
Some Tips And Info For Selecting The “correct” ISO For Your Digital Photography
ISO selection is important because it is allows the photographer to adapt to the lighting conditions found in their scene. The ISO value you select is one leg of the exposure triangle, along with aperture and shutter speed, which allows for precise exposure and creative control. Understanding ISO and how to use it is a fundamental photographer skill.
With digital cameras the ISO is a numerical value given for the level of sensitivity your camera sensor has to light. We saw the same rating system with film. Remember shooting ISO 100, 400, 800 etc… rated rolls of film? Do any of you old timers remember ASA ratings on film (pre-ISO)? With digital cameras we have the option to select a particular ISO value for every shot, which is a big advantage with digital photography.
In general the lower the ISO setting the less sensitive your sensor will be to light, the higher the ISO setting the more sensitive your sensor will be to light. This means that when you are shooting in bright conditions you can use a low ISO value and when shooting in low light conditions you select a high ISO value.
Most digital cameras offer a range of ISO values to choose from; 100 to 3200 is a common range of choices, although many models of camera go higher and lower. In general, the lower the ISO the better quality your results will be. Using a higher ISO will increase noise (digital artifacts), reduce sharpness and decrease the contrast ratio of your results. Digital cameras with larger sensors produce less of these negative effects than cameras with smaller sensors. Low ISO setting will then have less noise, more sharpness and a larger contrast ratio which will produce the higher quality images relative to high ISO settings.
In my opinion these disadvantage, the reductions in image quality have to be weighed against the benefits of having the option to shoot at a higher ISO rating. Most issues with noise, sharpness and contrast can be restored with software and I would urge you to shoot high values when conditions dictate. Being able to shoot action photos at high shutter speeds, with a telephoto lens in an indoor scene is only possible with high ISO values (1600, 3200, 6400) makes the trade-off in quality acceptable .
A variable ISO allows you to adapt your exposure settings to the scene and the creative options you want to use in your photography.
My general recommendation is to select the lowest ISO value that will allow for a proper exposure with the least noise.
ISO TIPS FOR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHERS
Here are some of my recommendations for using different ISO values in your digital photography. This is an important photographer tool and I encourage you to explore this option for exposure control in your photography. Good images always start with good camera work and ISO is a fundamental tool for photography.
- TURN OFF your AUTO ISO – By using auto ISO you are letting the camera give a ISO value choice and you are not deciding which ISO suits your photographic intent best the scene. This is one habit you want to change if your goal is to take control of your creative results.Turn AUTO ISO off, and leave it off!
- SELECT the ISO FOR THE SCENE: When you are beginning to determine your exposure settings, one of the first steps is to select an ISO value that is right for the scene and your photographic intentions. If you are in the woods with an overhead canopy of foliage blocking your light you would select a higher value. If you are shooting portraits with plenty of window light and you want to use large apertures for shallow depth of field then a low value would be your best choice. Evaluate the lighting resources and exposure options for the image you want to create and choose the ISO according to those objectives.
- CHANGES in ISO ARE EQUAL TO “STOPS” – When we change our exposure settings (in whole stop increments) we are halving or doubling the amount of exposure. For example if you move from F 11 to F 8 you are doubling the aperture size or if you move from 1/250th of second to 1/125th of a second you are cutting the duration of your exposure in half. The same ratio holds true with ISO, when you move from 400 to 800 you are doubling the sensitivity setting or as we would say increasing it by a “stop”. Digital cameras allow for incremental changes in EV (Exposure Value = Stops) usually and half and third stop amounts. You can refine exposure equally with aperture, shutter speed or ISO in those partial stop increments.
- SHOOT RAW – RAW is the best format for image capture and will yield the best results because you are collecting the maximum amount of data when you make your photo. JPEG is great file format to distribute photos but it produces less quality for capture. RAW files can be processed with photo editing software post capture to yield the highest quality images. The negative effects of shooting with high ISO (noise, sharpness, and contrast effects) are increased when shooting JPEG compared to RAW
- PLAY with EXPOSURE COMBINATIONS – There is no exact recipe for exposure combinations. Play with a variety of exposure combinations and ISO settings and compare your results on your computer. Each variable in the exposure triangle makes a difference in how your images will ultimately look. Experimenting with combinations will produce a variety of visual results.
- USE A TRIPOD – If you are seeking low noise, high sharpness and a wide contrast ratio that low ISO settings provide use a tripod. Long lenses and long exposure times make hand held photography difficult, especially in dim light at a low ISO. Securing you camera on a tripod is the solution for this type of shooting situation.
- SHOOTING HAND HELD with TELEPHOTO LENS – Long lenses are difficult to use when shooting hand-held. By increasing your ISO setting you can then shoot at faster shutter speeds which will eliminate the blur caused by camera movement. For example an ISO of 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second shooting with a 500 mm lens.
- HIGH SHUTTER SPEEDS = HIGH ISO – If you want to stop subject action you need to shoot at high shutter speeds. Increasing your ISO will allow you to increase your shutter speed. This is especially useful for shooting indoor sports or performances with limited stage lighting.
- USE ARTIFICIAL LIGHT – Sometimes we run into the limits of ISO choices in particular photographic conditions. For example you are shooting a portrait in a low available light setting. Facial details and skin looks best at low ISO values (100-200) and raising the ISO to a high value will produce less than flattering results. The solution to this situation it to use flash or other artificial light sources to keep the quality you desire. More light is often a better solution than a higher ISO.
Digital cameras have very precise exposure refinement tools and a variable ISO option is one of the most important. Understanding this feature and how to deploy, and how to select ISO for your scene ,to achieve your desired photographic result is essential for good image making.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.
July 11 is an auspicious day in my calendar.
July 11, 2012 marks a milestone in my career as a photographer. Thirty five years ago on a sweltering summer day I entered the federal office building in Manchester, NH a civilian and emerged a few hours a freshly inducted private in the Army. On that day I began my journey to becoming a professorial photographer by volunteering for a four-year enlistment. I was to become an 84 Bravo, in Army speak. (MOS 84-B = Military Occupation Specialty STILL PHOTOGRAPHIC SPECIALIST).
I spent the summer of 1977 in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the heart of the Ozark mountains in Missouri. This experience looms large in my memory . I was a goofy 17-year-old kid from NH who suddenly found himself in a completely unfamiliar reality. It was a “Dorothy, we aren’t in Kansas any more” sort of epic paradigm shift. I learned how to march, I developed some proficiency with weapons and I discovered that there are all kinds of people in this world. Life has presented few opportunities to show my marching skills but the weapons thing and the insight into human behavior has come in handy.
From there Uncle Sam sent me to Lowry Air Force Base in Aurora , Colorado for photography school. To this point in life my academic record could be bets described as erratic. Most of my reports cards contained the full range of letters and the classroom never seemed to contain my wandering brain. This school was different. My teachers were a mix of civilian and active duty military photographers whose experience as combat photographers ran from WWII through Viet Nam. This program was intense and thrilling. This impressive bunch shared their knowledge freely in exchange for performance. Every week we had proficiency tests score 80% and up you get to continue in the program. Score less than 80% and you earn a one way ticket to the infantry,for the remainder of your enlistment. I maintained a 97% test score average for the entire nine month program!The peril that I could spend my four years as an infantryman was a factor, although truth be told, I have never been motivated by threats. What inspired my performance was the passion I witnessed and ultimately embraced for the craft of photography. The photography instructor’s enthusiasm was contagious and they required that I respect this vocation that shaped all of their lives. The lessons they taught, both big and small, have informed my approach to photography every day of my thirty-five years behind the lens.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those men who trained me so well, who shaped my attitude and gave me a life of photography. As I reflect on the passing years and consider my experiences: the miles traveled and most importantly the people I have met due to the camera, the measure of their gift is immeasurable. Happy anniversary to me!
A tip for improving your photography
Do you ever look at the photography in magazine and on websites and think “why does this image look this good”? Are you wondering why your photographs seem to lack the impact that you see in professionally made photographs? Let me first say that if you are asking these questions, if you are thinking critically about your photography – Congratulations!
Good photography is thoughtfully conceived and executed. Devoting time looking at other photographers work and finding inspiration and insight in those images is an important way to improve you own photography. Now, I am not suggesting that you mimic or outright rip off the work of other photographers. My advice is to develop your critical eye, to learn how to find the qualities in an image that make it successful. Use that insight to inform your own creative process and approach to image making.
How do we define an image as successful? My standard for success is very straightforward: the viewer response. If you make a photo that engages the viewer, which captures their attention and elicits a response, you are successful. If the viewer is distracted by a technical flaw or bored, you’re not. A response can be cognitive – your photo makes them think, emotional it evokes a feeling or perhaps they become engrossed in narrative the story in your photo.
Good photography engages the viewer, it captures their attention. Good photography also inspires, entertains and is a catalyst for action. For example the photography of Lewis Hine (1874-1940) who used photography as tool of social reform. His photography directly led to child labor law reforms because of the impact they had on the public awareness of the issue.
When you look at photography made by others begin to deconstruct the visual elements and creative techniques employed in its creation. Break down the building blocks, the creative components of the shot. Analyze lighting sources – quality and direction, subject features, composition, optical choices, camera position, color, tone, mood, emotion and all the features of the image. Consider the relationship of these elements and the impression they have on you – the viewer. Use those insights when you make your photography. Identify the elements in your scene and use your critical assessment skills to arrange them in your camera frame.
ABOUT the AUTHOR: Photographer Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience creating original photography for corporations, institutions and individuals. He operates TEST OF TIME PHOTOGRAPHY in Nashua New Hampshire, a commercial photography and corporate assignment photography services company. A live action and location photography specialist, he is most noted for his photography of people. His assignments have involved travel to dozens of countries and at locations throughout the United States. ranging from tropical rainforests to the hall of Congress.
Dan Splaine is also a photography educator and he presents a program of digital photography workshops and photographer tours. The tours and workshops are held in New England and at international locations.
The New Year is upon us and of course our inclination is to set some goals and resolutions to carry out in 2012. One of the goals I have tasked myself with is spend some time on a regular basis practicing my photography skills. This goal has led me to develop a program that I would like to share with other photographer’s to help them grow their photographic skills.
I invite you to join me for the 2012 IMAGE MAKER’S 52 WEEK PHOTO WALK program. The concept is simple, make a commitment to take a walk with your camera for one half hour once a week and post a single image from that excursion online. The aim is 52 new images in 52 weeks. The idea behind this is to spend a small amount of time each week practicing your skills , and over the course of the year your work will improve. The weekly investment in time and effort can easily be accomplished and the online conversation will encourage folks to stick with it for the entire year.
The photos will be posted and shared online through a Flickr group I have organized.
Full details and the rules for participating are listed on the Test of Time Photography website CLICK HERE
Jump into the challenge, the more folks participating the more motivation to continue. Sign up here
Often a photographer’s identity can be determined by simply viewing an image. Their personal style is so well-formed that each photograph they create is readily recognized as distinctly their own. Consider the example of Ansel Adams. His images are iconic and if you are not familiar with each photo he made you arguably would know one when you saw it.
So how does a beginner photographer develop their own photographic style?
The ability to create original photography on a consistent basis requires practice and skill. For those starting to learn photography I suggest two paths to follow on the way to establishing their own unique photographic style.
My first suggestion and something I urge photographers of all skill levels is to study the work of other photographers. An examination and understanding of the images created by others will help inform you own perspective. I am not suggesting that you mimic the style of others, rather use their work as inspiration and a source of insight about photographic content, technique and design.
In my over 30 year professional photography career I have constantly referred to the work of other photographers to expand my understanding and refine my personal point of view. Other photography provides reference points and a standard for comparison. Apply that reference material to your imagination and intellect to create the photography that illustrates your own unique viewpoint. As you develop your photographic skills learn how to deconstruct the images of others to find the techniques applied in their creation.
My second suggestion is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the camera and the photographic options that it provides. Understanding the physical controls and how incremental adjustment will affect your photograph is fundamental to achieving predictable results. Creative control of your photography begins with technical expertise. To make the photography that matches your vision you need to know how to control your camera.
Making correct exposure, understanding optical choices and focus control are fundamental photography skills. Once you establish mastery of technique you can then maintain creative control, you can actually begin to shoot and make consistent results.
Your own personal photographic style is a product of your imagination and how you process your experiences and impressions. Digital photography requires study and practice to be creatively consistent. That consistency of results builds the the foundation of style. Ansel Adams did not get accidental results; his beautiful photography was the product of exceptional technique and a highly personalized vision.
To learn more about digital photography and to learn more about this topic you should consider attending a photography workshop. I offer a full program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adult photographers. On September 14, 2011 (7 to 9 pm) I am holding the PHOTO COMPOSITION and DESIGN workshop at the TEST of TIME PHOTO studio in Nashua, NH. Please consider attending this or any one of my many digital photo classes.
About the Author: Dan Splaine is a professional photographer and photo educator who operates a commercial photography business in Nashua, NH. He produces custom, unique images for businesses, institutions and individuals (regionally and nationally) with particular expertise in public relations and location photography. In his thirty plus years photo career he has photographed in dozens of countries and location ranging from rain forests to the halls of congress. He teaches photography workshops at his New Hampshire studio and conducts photography tours in New England and internationally.
What do I mean when I distinguish between simply “taking pictures” and the photographic method of “mage making”? Image making is a deliberate process for creating original photography that produces predictable and repeatable results. Picture taking is random and sporadically produces good images. Shooting snapshots can be fun and for the average digital photographer and can provide plenty of satisfaction. For shooters who have higher photographic aspirations a more skillful and deliberate approach is required.
I am constantly referring to “image making” in my digital photography workshops and photography tours. My goal as a photo educator is to help my students build their understanding and skills so they can fulfill their creative intent or more simply to make the photographs they imagine. The approach I advocate to photography is all about understanding the mechanics of cameras and photographic techniques in order to achieve the greatest amount of creative control. Photography is a remarkable melding of art and science and digital cameras are extraordinary tools for personal expression.
My objective as a photo educator is to enable my photography students to realize their creative intention. My approach is to build the skills and technical understanding that allows my students to make photographs in any condition with a deliberate creative objective. Learning digital camera controls, developing an understanding of light and the relationship between the two is the core of the image making technique.
Another element of image making is to develop your photographer’s eye, to begin to see the world photographically. When we are observing a scene an analysis of lighting conditions, optical choices and design considerations should be made before we raise our camera. Good photographers are careful observers and good photography should be deliberate in conception and execution.
Photography is a wonderful medium for creatively expressing an individual point of view. How we understand and adapt all of the photographic tools available and apply them to our observations is at the heart of that expression. Building photographic knowledge and skills provide creative control and ultimately greater satisfaction in the photography produced. Reconsider your photographic approach and make to move from “picture taker to image maker.”
Photographer Dan Splaine of Test of Time Photography in Nashua, NH presents a full program of digital photography workshops and photographer tours for adult photographers of all skill levels. Currently we have several photo workshops scheduled for September and October as well as a 10 day photography tour in Ireland in April 2012. Our fall program includes a photography weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on October 15-16, 2011. Click on the links above for further information about our upcoming program. For more information or to answer any questions send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography is a subject that is worthy of, and to be done well, requires study. My nearly 35 years behind the camera has been a continuous learning experience. Not only do I present photography workshops – I often attend them. Photography workshops provide an opportunity to remove yourself from the distractions of your daily life to spend some dedicated hours or days building your photographic skills. Photography workshops often can inspire and reinvigorate your passion for image making. Digital photography in particular has a significant learning curve and attendance in a photo class can help leapfrog your learning. Workshops presented by a well qualified instructor provide a forum to explore photographic concepts and creative techniques beyond your current skill level
How often do you actually pick up your camera and dedicate time to specifically making photographs?
No doubt those occasions are rare. A dedicated period of time concentrating solely of photography is the best way to rapidly advance your photo skills. Even a few hours provide an opportunity to focus on your creative approach to photography subjects. In my experience continuous photography during multi day and weeks long travels are really productive.
Workshops about a particular digital photographic topic or technique provide you the opportunity to explore new methods. Selecting a photo workshop that provides access to a unique location or specialized tools gives you a chance to test drive those techniques. I often host classes about studio lighting which allow new photographers to use lighting equipment and work with models they normally do not have access to. My photography tours bring photographers to locations that have been scouted and selected for their photographic potential. Workshops that feature a particular photo editing software help inform your purchasing decisions.
The social component of photography workshops adds important value. Spending a day with other people who share your interest in photography is another benefit of photo classes. In my opinion photography is a highly individualized form of personal expression. It is definitely not a team sport. That being said, the social exchange of ideas and the insights you can gain from a group of photographers can only build your understanding. In group critique sessions I find the peer-to-peer commentary and conversation well-informed and inspirational. Other perspectives on your photography and techniques are great learning tools. (To attend one of my photography review sessions click here).
Photographic ability and skills can be learned and have to be practiced. Attending a photography workshop will build your skills, confidence and inspiration. The investment of money and time can be justified by the value you receive, by how your creative ability to make photographs will increase.
I offer a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours (over 400 people attend in the last 18 months!) for adults. Some of the workshops are single photo topic sessions held at my studio or conducted in the field at nearby locations. Others are daylong sessions (like our Isle of Shoals Workshop held 7/23/11) or weekend packages (like our March 2011 weekend in Quebec, Canada). In addition to photo classes my schedule for the fall of 2011 includes a Photographers Weekend in the White Mountains (October 15-16). In April of 2012 I am leading a ten-day photography and cultural exploration in Ireland for STRABO tours. For more information and to receive notices of all my photography workshop contact me at email@example.com.